Bathtub Art Museum
a museum dedicated to the art of the bath
About the Museum
The Bathtub Art Museum (BAM) is a not-for-profit museum dedicated to the bathtub in art. Artists have used the bathtub as a subject or in more cases, a supporting subject, in their creations since bathtubs as we know them today have become common pieces of furniture in the household.
History of the Museum
Online Museum & Opening ShowIn August 2003 the Bathtub Art Museum (BAM) debuted online at bathtubmuseum.org (archived here) with an opening event, The Bathtub Art Show, at The Know in Portland, Oregon. The museum was the natural step after a long-time dedicated collector (me!) had accumulated 200 postcards depicting scenes of the bath. Yes every single postcard features bathtubs filled with celebrities, babies, cranky cats, sleepy travelers and others. Sometimes there was just the bathtub alone or part of a beautiful bathroom on the postcard. The collection began for me in high school in the mid-1990s as fodder for an art zine I made with a friend but after that project, I kept collecting, and collecting, and collecting. In the era before Ebay I had to do all the footwork myself to brick & mortar boutiques and antique malls in hopes I'd score an addition to my collection.
First Years of BAMTo prepare for my journey into being a public BAM director & curator (and the Bathtub Lady) I took a pilgrimage to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada to the "Great" International World Championship Bathtub Race in July 2003. A month later, the opening event, the Bathtub Art Show, featured two dozen Portland or local tub artists, an international mail art show of handmade bathtub postcards (hanging in a clear shower curtain above an antique tub!) and a bathtub movie film program including footage of the bathtub races. Two weeks later I organized a companion event, the Bathtub Art Fair during Portland's Alberta Street Fair. On the sidewalk outside The Know, we (my crew of volunteers and I) blew bubbles, played bathtub games, and wore colorful shower caps. My secret bathtub art collecting habit was a secret no more. John Foyston, a lifestyle and events writer for the Oregonian wrote up a feature recap of the Bathtub Art Museum's grand debut. (To read, see BAM press at bottom of the page).
The virtual Bathtub Art Museum had quarterly exhibits, a monthly featured bathtub artist and a Bathtubs in the News section. For the third anniversary, a Bathtub Cake Bake-off contest had 9 submissions and an audience favorite vote online. With 187 votes in the contest, John Dovydenas, a Portland foodie chef won Most Creative award with his Sweet Tub, an exquisitely fancy cake with a bathtub made out of hand cut chocolate!
Bathtub Art Museum without WallsOver the next decade I curated local bathtub art shows from the postcard collection at a variety of Portland venues including a barber shop, hotel, video rental store, coffee shop/café, book & comic store, the downtown main library and had a big show of 100 postcards from the collection at a plumbing shop! BAM also took part in the Keep Portland Weird festival at the Central Library and BAM's Fortune Telling Ducks were featured in SCRAP's Iron Artist carnival.
The Backyard Bathtub Art HouseIn 2009, a local artist Brennan Conaway created an installation piece at the OnGallery in downtown Portland. It was a little windowless house that you could only enter through hole in the floor, but first you had to step into a water-filled bathtub. The interactive art piece was titled, The Island Vacation Where I left all my Troubles Behind. I had discovered the perfect structure for future BAM exhibits. To purchase the art piece, I started the 100 Foundation Friends of BAM. For $5, anyone could become a lifetime member.
The campaign was a success and I became the new owner of the Bathtub Art House. Brennan reinstalled the house and tub (with a new weather-proof roof) in my own backyard in inner North Portland. It was a dream come true to have my very own physical museum right out my back door! I began to host events and art shows and in the summer of 2010, friends and friends of friends would drop-in during museum hours on Tub Tuesdays. One small downside is because the museum was now on private property, I no longer advertised the art openings and events in the papers, but plenty of people found out about events and exhibit openings through word of mouth.
10 Years of BAMAfter some great years with the backyard Bathtub Art Museum, and a second move to another backyard, I was moving again, so I gifted the Bathtub Art House permanently to the Cully Neighborhood and it became a community hub spot for local art shows (not necessarily bathtub related). For BAM's 10th anniversary, a new exhibit of handmade bathtub postcards was on view at the new location of the Bathtub Art House (NE 46th & Simpson in Portland, Oregon). Around the same time the online museum went offline as my interest in keeping online exhibits up-to-date had waned. The future was now open for a new BAM project.
Bathtub Art LoungeBAM only had small tubs in the collection. Besides postcards, the museum now had a collection of dollhouse sized tubs and other smaller items. In 2012 that changed; BAM acquired a bathtub couch! This is a cast iron tub that has been cut into a couch. The next phase was obvious: The Bathtub Art Lounge. I had some space at my new art studio under the Hawthorne Bridge in the Central Eastside. I hosted a few sporadic BAM shows but in 2015, the Zymoglyphic Museum moved into my studio space after relocating from California to Oregon. With new motivation to officially advertise First Friday open museum hours, I curated monthly exhibits again. One of our joint shows was called Rust & Lust! It was a great twofer small museum spot, Keeping Portland Weird in changing times.
BathlandiaIn early 2016, BAM left Portland but not before one final big art show. Yes another handmade postcard show on the theme of Portland and Bathtubs. The postcards were so clever and fun— tubs full of microbrew beer and Voodoo doughnuts (ha!)—it was the perfect end to a 13 year run in the Portland, Oregon area.
Toilet Seat ArtIn early 2016, the museum moved with me to San Antonio, Texas. Instead of focusing on sharing the museum with San Antonio I spent three (intense) years volunteering in the Barney Smith Toilet Seat Art Museum, a world famous off-beat art museum that brought in a couple thousand tourists a year featuring the unique art of former plumber Barney Smith on the canvas of a toilet seat! Early on, dreams of collaborating Bathtub Art and Toilet Seat Art swirled around my head, but it was very clear, Barney's museum was an all consuming entity with no room for other bathroom furniture. There is, however, a Bathtub Art Museum toilet seat! [See Barney's Helper for video about my time with Barney at the Toilet Seat Art Museum]
BAM TodayPlease enjoy the mini exhibits from the collections on this website. The physical museum collection and the Bathtub Lady moved to Pittsburgh, PA in 2021.
BAM EVENT TIME LINE
2003 bathtubmuseum.org debuts2003 Physical museum collection is in Portland, Oregon2003 Bathtub Art Show, The Know2003 Bathtub Art Fair, The Know2004-2005 Iron Artist, Fortune Telling Ducks carnival game2005 Folks Are Real Friendly Here: 100 Postcard Show at Half & Half Café and A-Ball Plumbing2005 Central Library, Bathtubs Exhibit2006 Movie Madness, Celebrities in Tubs Exhibit2006 Jupiter Hotel, Bathtubs on Holiday Exhibit2006 Laurelhurst Barber Shop, Glamorous Gals & Beautiful Baths Exhibit2006 Bathtub Cake Bake-off, 3rd Anniversary event2007 Central Library, Keep Portland Weird Festival, postcard & book display2007 Reading Frenzy, For the Love of the Tub Valentines Exhibit2009 Bathtub Art House Fundraiser event and 100 Foundation Friends2010 Bathtub Art House, Bathtub Love, Valentines Exhibit2010 BAM House Tub Tuesdays2010 BAM House Hollywood Comes Clean Exhibit2013 BAM 10th Anniversary Postcard Show2014 Faux Museum Peeping Toms & Plumbers, Collections & Anomalies show2015-2016 Bathtub Art Lounge First Fridays
- Bathtub Love Show
- Summer Vacation
- Twins & Multiples
- Museum/Museum with Zymoglyphic Museum
- Oddly Curious with Zymoglyphic Museum
- Photographic Tubs
- Rust & Lust with Zymoglyphic Museum
- Drawing the Bath
- Bathlandia: Handmade Postcard Show
- Willamette Week, Galleries Northeast, Bathtub Art Show [Portland, OR, August 27, 2003]
- Portland Mercury, Visual Arts, Bathtub Art Show [Portland, OR, August 28, 2003]
- Portland Tribune, Art, Bathtub Art Show [Portland, OR, August 29, 2003]
- dailyPDX, Of All Things Bubbly: Bathtub Art Show [online blog, August 30, 2003]
- * The Oregonian, A & E, Out There, Rub-a-dub-dub [Portland, OR, September 12, 2003] [Detailed account of BAM's debut by John Foyston]
- YOUmaga.com, Pacific Northwest Museums, Bathtub Art Museum [Japanese travel website, September 2004]
- Antiques & Collecting Magazine, A Passionate Collector: Carye Bye [magazine, October 2004]
- Portland Mercury, Visual Arts, The Folks are Real Friendly Here, Portland, OR, January 6, 2005]
- Oregonian, A & E, Plugged In, Good Clean Fun [Portland, OR, January 14, 2005]
- Portland Tribune, Art, Bathtub Art Museum "Folks are Real Friendly" [Portland, OR, February 18, 2005]
- The WestchesterWAG, Decorative Arts, Rub-A-Dub-Dub [NY magazine, June 2005]
- The Bathroom Companion, Carye Bye [book by James Buckely, Quirk Books, pg 33, 2005]
- Columbia News Service, Quirky Collections: From Coffins to Baked Beans [New York, NY, February 14, 2006]
- The Philadelphia Inquirer, Collecting Can Be Fun, or Border on Disturbing [Philadelphia, PA, March 3, 2006]
- Postcard Collector, What's In the Mail? [magazine, August 2006]
- Willamette Week, Dish, Baking in the Bathroom [Portland, OR, August 23, 2006]
- Oregon Curiosities, Rub a Dub Dub [book by Harriet Baskas, Insiders Guide, Morris Book Publishing, pgs 64-65, March 2007]
- The Oregonian, InPortland, Bathtub Museum Moves to Backyard [Portland, OR, June 12, 2010]
- The Southeast Examiner, Arts & Performance, A Red Bat in a Bathtub...within a Hidden Library [Portland, OR, February 2015]
- The Southeast Examiner, A Zymoglyphic Bathtub Art Museum?! [Portland, OR, November 2015]
- The Southeast Examiner, Short Takes...Arts News of Note, The Bathtub Art Museum [Portland, OR, February 2016]